Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sought to clarify his position on defunding the police after he and his campaign have sent mixed signals on the issue for the last couple of months. Fox News reported that Biden now stresses that he wants more, not less, money for police departments across the country.
“Let’s get the facts straight, I not only don’t want to defund the police. I want to add $300 million to their local budgets to deal with community policing to get police and communities back together again,” Biden said in an interview with KDKA TV in Pittsburgh after his campaign speech Monday.
Biden has made contradictory statements during the campaign regarding police funding. In an interview with activist Ady Barkan in July Biden was asked, “But do we agree that we can redirect some of the [police] funding?” The former vice president answered that question, “Yes, absolutely.” After that exchange, Biden attempted to clarify his position in a confusing follow-up statement. “That’s not the same as getting rid of or defunding all the police,” Biden said. “You cannot send my daughter, who has her master’s degree in social work, she is one who engages in dealing with all those problems. … When you get a call to a third-story walk-up in a domestic dispute, you can’t send a social worker, because a social worker may get shot too. So what happens you, what do you do, you can send along a social worker with a police officer.”
In a virtual fundraiser in early August the Hill reported Biden denying he wanted to shift money away from police. “I don’t want to defund police,” Biden said during the event. “I want to get police more money in order to deal with the things they badly need, from making sure they have access to community policing, that they have also in the departments social workers, psychologists, people who in fact can handle those god-awful problems that a cop has to have four degrees to handle.”
Biden’s positions on crime and law enforcement have been criticized by members of his own party during the Democratic primary season. As a United States Senator, Biden helped write the 1994 crime bill that imposed harsh sentences on crimes involving crack cocaine and suggested imposing the death penalty to deal with a rise in violent crime. Critics have cited the bill as a prime factor in leading to the mass incarceration of minorities, especially blacks. Former candidate Cory Booker challenged Biden record early on in the election cycle, saying of the former VP, “It’s not enough to tell us what you’re going to do for our communities, show us what you’ve done for the last 40 years.” Even Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, was critical of Biden’s record concerning crime and communities of color. The Biden campaign will need the overwhelming support of the black community in order to win in November.
So far Biden has attempted to have it both ways by distancing himself from the “defund the police” message while calling for redirection of funds earmarked for the police. The White House is trying to prevent him from getting away with it. “That’s Washington speak for defunding,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said about Biden’s call for “redirection.” “You know, you can’t really allocate from one bucket without taking from that bucket to put in a different bucket.”